Rhyme Time

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I thought writing poetry was easy,
the word count is more frugal;
and rhyming isn’t all that hard
especially with Google.

But one can be deluded
by one’s assumed poetic art
and think other people care about
the content of one’s heart.

In truth, the poet bleeds
her words upon the page
and hopes that this solidifies
her sadness, or her rage.

But alas, it may not happen,
the bloodshed is futile
and all her rhyming feelings
end up in the Reject pile.

For look at all the poems
that the world wants her to write:
words s  c  a  t  t  e  r  e  d,            gaps,
con-FU-sion
and not a rhyme in sight.

Where are all the sonnets?
The couplets partnered two-by-two?
Bring back rhyming poems!
They have valid feelings too.

Still, I remain hopeful
that my efforts aren’t in vain
and someone out there notices
these bloody lines of pain.

Worst case, as it may happen
is that no one blinks an eye
and the pile of Reject feelings
starts ascending to the sky.

But writing is a game you play
for pleasure, not to win
and emotions, like some other things,
are better out than in.

So write your heart, and write your soul,
these words don’t need a stage;
As long as you feel something, then
keep bleeding on the page.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Simplify and Spark Joy

Marie Kondo introduced to the world the idea that when it comes to decluttering, a positive attitude will serve you well. Keep only the things that bring you joy, she says, and you will be able to successfully simplify and organise your home, and thereby, your life.

She advises all of us messy, disorganised hoarders to focus on the physical items that we love, and it will naturally follow that the items we don’t love should be discarded (after thanking them respectfully). This positive spin on decluttering means we are not looking for things to throw out. We’re looking for things to keep. So our focus, and our energy, shifts to the happiness-generators and therefore creates more happiness in our lives. Good vibes only.

The art of simplifying is beneficial not just for our kitchen drawers or our linen closets. There are parallels to be drawn (so I will try….) in other aspects of our world, such as in writing, in art, and in life.

Simplifying writing
During a wonderful Creative Writing course I took last year, we were taught to simplify our writing by removing excessive adjectives and adverbs. This was not an easy lesson to learn, and I still struggle with (and sometimes ignore) it. We were also guided towards making our writing tight and compact, so that what’s left on the page holds more impact.

“Eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

Hans Hofmann, abstract expressionist painter, defines the ability to simplify in terms of removing the non-essentials to allow the essentials to shine.

But to do this, first we need to know what exactly is essential. In writing, what is your message, what is your tone, where is your impact? Keep the powerful words; keep the slam-dunk sentences; keep the necessary frills. And then, perhaps, most of what is left is excess and can be eliminated.

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Hans Hofmann, 1963

Simplifying art
Hofmann painted this piece titled Enigma in 1963, and it was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2017 for a cool 2.4 million USD. Maybe Hofmann had five more colours on his artist’s palette that he could have used. Perhaps he almost used circles as well as rectangles. But he didn’t. He chose the thing he deemed necessary and allowed it to speak. And it spoke to someone who thought it was worth that much money. Hofmann believed that abstract art was a path to discovering reality. He found truth not despite the chaos, but through it.

Simplifying life in the 19th century
Mindfulness has now become a buzzword but it is not a new concept. The poet Henry David Thoreau famously undertook an experiment in simple living in 1845, because he wanted to ‘live deliberately’ and to encounter ‘only the essential facts of life.’ Thoreau lived in a cabin in the woods near Concord, Massachusetts for two years, to experience a simple, purposeful life. During this time, he wrote a book on life in the woods, in which he says:

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” – H.D. Thoreau

Thoreau wished for people to be more self-aware and to value personal growth over material wealth. He explained that outward progress did not necessarily mean inner contentment, and criticised the ‘busy’ mentality of society, advising instead to: “let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”

In simple words: cut down, cut back, cut loose. Thoreau found his joy in nature and made that his ‘necessary’ – thereby eliminating the aspects of society he did not like, such as materialism and consumerism.

Simplifying life today
So how do we adopt the advice of a decluttering expert, an artist and a writer in our lives today? To do it Kondo-style, focus on the positive, identify the essential parts of our lives that bring us joy, and respectfully remove the excess. To be an Enigma like Hof, decide on what is necessary, eliminate everything else, and continue your quest to search for what is real. And finally, like Thoreau, make deliberate choices to keep things simple, dig deep through the layers of unnecessary detail to find inner joy, and focus on the things that matter.

Simplify, simplify. Then what is left will be the powerful stuff that’s worth holding on to.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Three Sighs

My favourite photo of us is over 30 years old. Something about this watercolour edit reminds me of timelessness – with colours, people, feelings blending into each other.

And in the end, we find there was, there is, always love.

For you, Papa, on what would have been your 77th birthday. 

papa and i watercolour

A bed on wheels is set up in the living room
because he hates hospitals, loves sports on television and there is nothing more we can do.

A saline drip trickles into his veins (Cancer must be thirsty work)
but I know he would much prefer a nice cold one.

An owl comes to visit in the middle of the night.
My father exhales three times as life leaves his body.

One –
A sigh of exhaustion, I imagine,
from hosting the unwanted guest who stole his strength, his freedom, his laugh.

Two –
A sigh of sadness, I know,
for all that is left behind: conversations with grandchildren, my mother navigating life without him, an unopened single malt from overseas.

Three –
A sigh of relief, I hope,
for the end of holding on to a rope that frays a little more every day,
for the end of suffering, the end of sympathy.

We move the bed out of the living room, now The Room Where My Father Died.
At least he’s not in pain anymore, they say.
We nod with heavy hearts because it is selfish to say But we are.

©2019 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Helicopter View of Jargon

Confused-Baby

When they tell me we should ‘touch base offline
perhaps just before close of play,’
I wonder.
Which base do they want to touch?
When is anyone ever offline?
What game is it we are playing?

When they suggest we think outside the box
one day, then another day ask for blue-sky thinking
and mean the same thing,
I wonder.
If everything outside the box is blue sky
then perhaps inside the box is sweet-smelling earth,
grains of soil you can gather, rub between your fingers
and inhale
just to feel something real.

I feel like crawling into that box
where I am safe from low-hanging fruit,
where there are no thought showers,
just simple, meaningful words
(and room for lateral thinking)
with other like-minded folk
who are tired of getting the ball rolling
then moving the goalposts.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about
deep diving, or drilling down, or closing the loop
and I don’t always catch the words before they escape.
But if I ever diarise a meeting for ideation or solutioning,
please promptly throw me out of the nearest
window of opportunity
where there will be plenty of blue sky.


©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

How to write haiku

Carve into your soul
then scoop out the feelings that
suggest poetry.

Bleed from the heart, use
just seventeen syllables
to contain your wounds.

Write five-seven-five
for traditional haiku
or be a rebel and disregard the rules.

Fuse three phrases like
setting gold leaf in glass, the
result will sparkle.

To be authentic
plant your haiku in nature
and include surprise!

If you get it wrong
first drafts of haiku make great
origami cranes.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Trio of Halloween Haiku

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A haiku is a short, Japanese poem that follows a set structure: three lines, 17 syllables in a 5/7/5 distribution, unrhymed.

Here is my seasonal offering, a semi-traditional trio of haiku.

1.
Monsters and witches
walk among us every day:
Groundhog Halloween.

2.
Beware of the masks
that cannot be removed, some
creatures wear plain clothes.

3.
In the costumed haze,
Clowns with painted smiles offer
tricks disguised as treats.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

The Waiting Perch

pigeons

Love is a tiny morsel of bread
flung by a careless hand.
The lonely pigeon, one amongst hundreds
swoops down from her waiting perch
open-hearted and hopeful for a taste of happiness.
She surfaces hungry, pitiful
while others emerge victorious,
strutting around with full bellies and smug expressions.
So she returns to her perch
to wait for the fling
of the next morsel
that surely will be hers.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd